AUBURN — The Planning Board voted Tuesday to recommend that the City Council not eliminate what’s known as an income standard in zoning regulations for certain protected areas until a “reasonable alternative” can be reached.

The income standard for development in the agriculture and resource protection district states that single-family homes can only be built on a parcel if at least 30% of the occupants’ gross annual income is derived from farming the land or is equal to at least 30% of the city’s median annual household income.

Eliminating the income standard would open residential development for non-farm-related purposes.

Planning Board members voted unanimously on a motion from Evan Cyr to recommend the council not eliminate the income standard until a new standard that “maintains the connection of housing and agricultural uses” can be finalized.

Cyr presented suggested language for the new standard, which was not made public until Tuesday night’s meeting. Because of that, the Planning Board will need to hold an additional public hearing before it can send the draft to the council for consideration.


The Council Chambers were packed Tuesday night with residents looking to comment on the proposed changes. For more than an hour, the board heard from residents who said that eliminating the income standard would negatively affect Auburn’s ability to control sprawl and protect natural resources.

“The (agricultural and resource protection district) in its current form makes numerous economic and ecological contributions to the city of Auburn, many of which can be further promoted, and would be compromised by undermining current zoning” said Jane Costlow, a retired Bates College professor and chairwoman of the Auburn Sustainability and Natural Resource Management Board.

The Auburn Sustainability and Natural Resource Management Board recommended against eliminating the income standard.

The purposes of this district are “to allow for conservation of natural resources and open space land, and to encourage agricultural, forestry and certain types of recreational uses,” according to city ordinance.

These regulations are in place “primarily because these areas are so remote from existing centers of development that any added uncontrolled growth could result in an economic burden on the city and its inhabitants,” the ordinance states.

In its recommendation to the Planning Board late last year, the Sustainability and Natural Resource Management Board said eliminating the income standard went against the district’s stated purpose and that making this change without “alternative regulations” for residential development could lead to uncontrolled growth.


Not all residents who spoke at the public hearing were of the same mind.

Bruce Bickford, a former city councilor and state representative, said if landowners want to build a house but not farm, they should be allowed to.

Peter Moore called the income standard “draconian.”

“This ordinance is cruel at its core and the income tests and removal from one’s home must be purged from this ordinance as soon as possible,” he said.

“Removal of the income test does not change or damage the intention of the zoning or use of the land. But removal of the income test will go a long way,” Moore said, adding that the ordinance as written is “exclusionary.”

A second public hearing and discussion on “strip zoning limitations” played out similarly, with another hour of public comments.

Eliminating the strip zoning limitations in the agricultural zone would eliminate the requirement that the property frontage must be 350 feet from the centerline of the roadway or the rear property boundary to the entire parcel.

The board voted 6-1 to recommend that the council not make any amendments to strip zoning, saying it would be incongruous with their decision on the income standard.

Member Darren Finnegan voted against the recommendation.

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